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Anti-Trans Bigotry at Bryan, Ohio City Schools

bryan city schools

“It’s just really, disrespectful. I just want them to call me Jay when I walk across the stage in front of everyone so it’s not really embarrassing.”

“I didn’t really have any friends. The kids would call me slurs and names they would make up themselves.”

“The kids at school would use my deadname to bully me. It would be so embarrassing and disrespectful to go up in front of all those kids and get called it once again.”

Jay Rober

“The consistent practice has always been to utilize the student’s legal name that matches with the legal name on the diploma.”

“If they decide to apply for employment or if they decide to attend higher education, we on the school side are bound to ensure that the legalities are followed with the legal document.”

— Bryan City Schools Superintendent Mark Rairigh

Letter to the editor of the Bryan Times.

Dear Editor,

Graduating from high school is a seminal moment in a student’s life; a time of arrival and entrance into adulthood. Graduation should be a day of happiness and joy as family and friends congratulate a student on a job well done. It is not a day for moralizing or political statements. Unfortunately, Bryan City Schools superintendent Mark Rairigh did just that for one transgender student, Jay Rober. And now Rober won’t be walking with his fellow students on graduation day.

Rober asked school officials to please call him by his preferred name when awarding him his diploma. Rairigh says this can’t happen for “legal” reasons. What “legal” reasons, exactly? I can understand requiring a student’s legal name to be printed on his or her diploma, but that’s not what is going on here. All Rober wants is to be called by his preferred name when his name is announced. Doing so is just a matter of respect for the student. Countless students are daily addressed by their teachers with preferred names. My dad’s name was Robert, but his teachers called him Bob. The same goes for my mother, whose legal name was Barbara, but wanted to be called Barb.

Accommodating preferred names require no effort on the part of Bryan City teachers, administrators, and the superintendent. It’s hard not to conclude, then, that there is either a political or religious agenda behind Rairigh’s refusal to accommodate Rober’s name request. Hiding behind “this is the way we have always done it” is the mantra of people resistant to social progress and change; the same mantra used by southern white supremacists to block school integration.

School officials threw Rober a lifeline, of sorts: legally change your name (in less than two weeks, at a cost of hundreds of dollars). Are Bryan City teachers required to call every student by their legal name? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. Shouldn’t students who have preferred nicknames be required to legally change their names? Absurd, right?

At the end of the day, “Jay” is just a name. Out of respect for Jay and his family on the biggest day of his young life, he has earned the right to be called by his preferred name. I can’t think of a rational or logical (or legal) reason why Jay just can’t be “Jay.”

Bruce Gerencser

Ney, Ohio

15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    I felt like the school system here in Bryan was a bit more open-minded when my sons were attending. Of course, that was well before the GOP descended into religious nuttery and blatant bigotry. And since this area is majority conservative, white and Christian, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. This is sickening.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Becky, you and I have both lived here for years. We know the lay of the lily white, right-wing, gun-loving, abortion hating, Christian land. I live here despite these things. I’m a card carrying liberal/progressive/socialist/atheist/Reds fan. 😂 I live here because it’s home; it’s familiar; it’s where my six children and thirteen grandchildren live. If this wasn’t the case, I’d (we’d) pack up and move to the coasts or Austin, Texas. I’m here until I die, so I might as well fight for people such as this young man. It’s the least I can do. I heard from him, by the way. He appreciates me standing up for him. My privilege. ❤️❤️

      • Avatar
        BJW

        I’m so glad you could stand up for Jay. I also posted this on Facebook. My family has a trans friend close to the age of my younger son. She graduated years ago, and is working full time as a machinist. She was able to get her birth certificate changed in Ohio to the female gender. I’m glad, but I’m so afraid that our state government will pass something that prevents other people from doing so.

        I do appreciate all the hard work you’ve done in speaking out. I don’t argue politics anymore IRL. My oldest has veered right and it’s hard. But I simply don’t want to spare energy in talking about things we can’t agree on. My parents never tried to influence us politically or religiously. If our country does keep veering into authoritarianism, certain living arrangements may become impossible. And I may have to fight with him then. But I’m trying to preserve a loving relationship by coming together in areas of interest.

        Anyway, you are brave and I commend you for it.

  2. Avatar
    Sage

    You stated the case very well, Bruce. There is no reason they cannot use the name he prefers.

    Personally, if I were graduating, and they refused to use my name, then I would still march, and I would take the stage, but I would not approach to get the diploma until my name was properly called. I would just stand silently, waiting, and force the graduation to work around my silent on stage protest.

    It is ridiculous that kids in school have to deal with all of these adults trying to force them to be whatever the adults see as proper. It disgusts me to her them cry about indoctrination while using laws to indoctrinate children, who are vulnerable and easy targets fo their blatant bigotry.

    • Avatar
      ObstacleChick

      My daughter just graduated from college. Each student had to submit a name card on which they phonetically spelled their name so that the announcer coukd pronounce their name properly at the ceremony. No card, no walk. My daughter left out her middle name – no particular reason, she just did, and I don’t care. But then she got all freaked out that maybe her diploma wouldn’t be legit without her middle name. I reassured her that not once has anyone asked to see my printed degree. Besides, my transcript is linked to my social security number anyway…

      This is all to say that the administration of the school made a choice not to respect this student’s wishes regarding his name. It coukd very well have been done.

      I am so glad the student saw your support. That goes a long way!

  3. Avatar
    kittybrat

    Thank you, Bruce, for speaking out for Jay. This damn trans discrimination is disgusting. God dammit! Heaven forbid they allow Jay the dignity he deserves for completing his requirements for graduation.
    I used to long for the day these tyrants would die off, but now I see it is the mindset that needs to die.
    Sharing to FB, by the way.

    • Avatar
      BJW

      You know, RF, you aren’t here spewing because you want to save anyone. Because you’ve been roundly rejected, plus Bruce moderates your comments. You’re just here as a troll, and a loathsome one. Is that really how your Jesus wants you to bring people to him?

  4. Avatar
    Troy

    Yes, the school should call people by their preferred name. But I wouldn’t skip the rite because of the name issue. After all, “what is in a name?” (Shakespeare). Remember old farts are still acclimating, give them some slack.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The superintendent is not an old fart. He’s the same age as my oldest son — late 30s, early 40s. I suspect for the student that this is a matter of principle for him. I know I wouldn’t attend a service/ceremony/event where those running the event planned to deliberately disrespect me. I’d probably picket the event — but that’s me. 😂😈

  5. Avatar
    Lee

    about half the people in my extended family use a nickname based on their middle name. if “Bill” or “Cindy” asked to be announced by the nickname rather than the “long name” and the school refused they would get an earful. (most of her teachers never knew “Cindy’s” long name, and would have had trouble pronouncing it anyway) dunderheads!l

  6. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce–Thank you for your letter. As you know, I am a transgender woman who affirmed her gender identity relatively late in life ( my mid-40s to early 50s). Many milestones of my life, such as my high school and college graduations, seem distant to me, not only because of the time elapsed, but also because I could not be known by my own name and therefore could not experience them as the person I truly am. Thus, it’s as if those things happened to another person.

    Call me a cynic, but such events are too often staged, not only as the milestones they are in the life of the person who is experiencing them, but as showcases for the agendae or simply the egos or hate of the people or institutions involved in staging them.

    • Avatar
      BJW

      MJ, my son graduated from Bryan High School. And that year, 2006, a young woman gaily skipped her way through the ceremonies with bare legs and bare feet. The impression we had was that she was only wearing her gown and nothing else. Did anyone make a fuss? No, we just felt amused. And that kind of thing was actually distracting, unlike calling a student by the name they use. I actually think opposition to trans rights has hardened in the last 6 years, now that the GOP is attacking those rights and needs a scapegoat. It is completely disgusting.

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Bruce Gerencser